on Self-realization

Self-realization as revealed in art, symbol & sacred text: the archetypes of Carl Jung & the lore of enlightenment

An Imaginal Journey into the Origin and History of the Soul


At origin, at basis, there is no thought, no language. Something is, but we cannot name it. All we can fathom is that it is the ground of life: essential to life, yet unsayable, unspeakable. It, unfathomable, gives birth to soul.


The earliest form of language is imagination. Imagination presents a kaleidoscopic array of forms and images, expressing emergent awareness. Through imagination the soul first becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself. Jung says:

“This creative urge explains the bewildering confusion, the kaleidoscopic changes and syncretistic regroupings, the continual rejuvenation, … We move into a world of fantasies which, untroubled by the outward course of things, well up from an inner source to produce an ever-changing succession of plastic or phantasmal forms.” (CW 5, para. 24).

Mythical Language

As the soul develops it becomes aware of itself and the world through a mythical language. In the biblical tradition it is said: “The Word Became Flesh – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

When aligned with the Word, the soul begins to weave narrations and myths which tell of life and the soul’s relationship to life. Words become the “creative power” of the soul (Jung, CW 5, para. 24, 176). Jung says:

“The naive man of antiquity saw the sun as the great Father of heaven and earth and the moon as the fruitful Mother. Everything had its demon, was animated like a human being, or like his brothers the animals. Everything was conceived anthropomorphically or therimorphically, in the likeness of man or beast. Even the sun’s disk was given wings or little feet to illustrate its motion” (Jung, CW 5, para 24)

Myth tells stories of the soul becoming conscious within the world: “men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and broad seas, and roaring torrents” (cited in Jung fn. 21). The soul struggles to know itself and its world; myth tells of such struggle.

Through myth, the soul becomes aware of itself– as a Self. This is the story of the hero. The hero is a metaphor for the Self, for subjective awareness of the Self.

Metaphysical Language

The Self must develop a language of Self, a language which describes the Self. The Self realizes “I am of this world, but not of this world.” Metaphysics is born.

With metaphysical knowledge, the soul realizes the potential to think of and speak to the Self beyond the physical world.

Abstract Language

Metaphysics brings with it abstraction. Abstraction takes that which is essential and turns it into a general idea or quality. Language transforms active, relational knowing into “a conceptual scheme” (Wundt, cited in Jung, fn 22), a kind of fixed “known”.

Abstract language “designates… general concepts” (ibid). Such conceptual schemes and general concepts mirror a world. The are not real in and of themselves, but are mirrors of the real capable of being “applied in a uniform manner to the most varied problems” (ibid.)

The Self in Abstract Language

Language shifts from a language of the Self to a system of abstractions– a copy system. Jodl makes this quite clear:

“Language is the register of tradition, the record of racial conquest , the deposit of all the gains made by the genius of individual. The social “copy-system” thus established reflects the judgmental processes of the race, and in turn becomes the training school of the judgment of new generations” (Jodl, cited in Jung, CW 5, para 15).

The Self begins to transform through abstraction, knowing its Self in abstract terms. The Self becomes an object to itself, a copy of itself, designating a general concept for itself.

The Split in the Self

The Self splits within itself, mirroring itself through it own abstraction. The Self mirrors itself as ‘I’. The Self calls itself ‘I’ as an abstraction.

The Latin word for ‘I’ is ‘Ego.’ The ego’s abstraction creates a conceptual scheme about itself capable of being applied in a uniform manner, allowing it to adapt itself to a collective reality. Each Self surrenders its own subjectivity and becomes part of a social “copy-system.”

The soul’s metaphysical and mythic speech sinks into the hidden recesses of the unconscious: the two forms of thinking are born. Jung says:

“We have, therefore, two kinds of thinking: directed thinking, and dreaming or fantasy-thinking. The former operates with speech elements for the purpose of communication, and is difficult and exhausting; the latter is effortless, working as it were spontaneously, with the contents ready to hand, and guided by unconscious motives. The one produces innovations and adaptation, copies reality, and tries to act upon it; the other turns away from reality, sets free subjective tendencies, and, as regards adaptation, is unproductive” (para. 20).

Speech expresses a split within the Self. The egoic mind speaks a language of abstraction, objectification, and adaptation. While the soul speaks a language of subjective reality, of dreams and imagination.


Self-realization is the unification of the Self. In Self-realization we seek to know the Self beyond abstraction. We seek to know the Self beyond the copy-system.

23 comments on “An Imaginal Journey into the Origin and History of the Soul

  1. William Ockham
    December 8, 2013

    Thank you very much for this excellent summary. I have not read much about Jung and this summary and the rest of the resources on your site are fantastic references.

    W. Ockham

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 9, 2013

      Thanks for reading. I enjoy your website as well.
      Please feel free to offer a Chardinian perspective.

      • Eric-Lars Cederquist
        December 12, 2013

        Dear Jenna,
        I am directed to this page today, to the Jungian on 20131212, and am pleased: the pleasure grounds itself not upon the amazing integration of diverse subjects but upon how these are articulated and the intent, which seeks to cut across the three times, i.e., past, present, future, in order to reveal the newness of (B)eing (yes, Heidegger) , the ever-waiting-to-be-born self. The Jungian puts forth Jung’s thought without any “Jungian” objectives, just as Jung himself did in his opus and in his life, in which he pursued the goal of a lifetime: that is the “work” on himself. For me, the most thought provoking content provided on the site at present is the disclaimer: As disclaimers go, it’s diurnal in content; however, how the content is expressed is not, for the expression’s rhetoric speaks aloud the choice to continue to learn to know how to know; of course, nothing new is here, for Jung is an epistemologist of the soul—Aha! Freud so willingly wanted to be this that he even deferred his own psyche’s “primal scene,” consoling himself with the assurance of the fact of being at least, if one may suggest, its first bureaucrat.
        I hold you, Jenna, in honor and honor your task,

        • Jenna Lilla
          December 12, 2013

          Eric-Lars Cederquist,

          I am delighted to receive your comment and appreciation. It is clear to me that you have a sense of what I am slowly working toward: the archetypal primal scene. I love that you put it in such direct terms. It seems that even Jung had to hide it under many layers of dialectical pondering: only to realize in the end that all of our archetypal splitting and integration is hiding that which is most beautiful and most beneficent. It is strange that we are so terrified of this aweful goodness that we might give up our lives (to being a bureaucrat) just to avoid it.

  2. markweiss001
    December 8, 2013

    New to your blog, found it today while looking for a usable definition of participation mystique. Still have only a vague sense of the concept. Sufficient for now.
    Reading Maury Stein. Will explore your material. The subject is captivating. Thanks

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 9, 2013

      Welcome Mark,

      Participation mystique means mystical participation. Wikipedia has a some of Jung’s thoughts on the concept.

      I will be taking about participation mystique sooner or later.

  3. David R
    December 8, 2013


    I’m glad to see you back on line. In a very short period of time I’ve grown accustomed to coming to this space to learn what new ideas have been put on the table for our consideration, and for the last few days there has been only silence. I say this not in an effort to see you chained to moderating your blog without your taking time for living and enjoying other entertainments in your life, but just to say that I missed you. :-) You need to take a break. And we all need to take a break, even though we may have become addicted to the hope of learning something new or the possibility of removing one more projection that may have been preventing us from experiencing the soul as it actually is.

    The key words here for me are, “the soul as it actually is.” Hillman said in “The Myth of Analysis” that “They [the helping professionals] must see sickness in the soul so that they can get in there and do their job [cure it, heal it].”

    But we ourselves too need to be on guard in our reading of SoT as well as others of Jung’s writings and the writing of other theorists. In our zeal to “reclaim the soul” we need to be doubly sure that we don’t also slip on the all too slippery path of analytic (directed) thinking and find ourselves doing the very opposite of our intentions and thinking that we need to rescue the soul from some threat.

    Our souls are the breath of God delivered to us on the first day by God, him-her-itself. It cannot be defeated or extinguished. Our readings (exclusive of all the limitations of status quo standards of professional psychology that you allude to above) should continue to focus (I think) on discovering the dynamics of the psyche and how we [as human beings] project imaginary limitations in our lives. :-)

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 9, 2013


      For me the question is: Where is there more likely to be a need for healing, in the ego, in the soul?

      The way I experience this is that the ego is a point of awareness (for adaptation) and the soul is a point of awareness (for the eternal). I believe it is the ego which needs healing, not the soul.

      The field of psychology is made up of individuals with (mostly) strong egos; they are adaptive individuals who have undergone quite a bit of training. As a field psychologist tend to be focused on the ego over the soul. Hillman said as much in his book, Myth of Analysis.

      While I appreciate this effort, I am coming from a different perspective. I have to resist the temptation to focus on the ego or even on the dynamics of the psyche. My interests are on Self-realization.

      • David R
        December 9, 2013

        Actually, Jenna, when I wrote ‘dynamics of the psyche’ I was using psyche as a synonymous term for soul as derived from Psyche Greek goddess of the soul, wife of Cupid (Eros), and archetype denoting soul.

        I don’t know any psychologists, and don’t have a clue about what kind of egos they have.

        David :-)

  4. Anonymous
    December 9, 2013

    I just found your website. You have a nice way of writing about the soul.

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 9, 2013

      Thanks Lani,

      Welcome to the blog. Please feel free to join the conversation and/or ask questions for clarification.

  5. David R
    December 9, 2013

    Jenna, I very much support you and the work you’re doing here. I keep coming back daily, several times during the day to see what’s on the table. I am a seeker, and I have connected with you and the small group of seekers who have gathered around you hoping we can assist one another along the way. But make no mistake about it, whatever the nature of this reality is in which we are living, moving, and having our being in–whether it is real-real, illusory-real, or imaginally-real–it is whole, perfectly balanced. and forever. Hillman poses the question in The Myth: what is there to analyse? All our “fantasies, feelings, and behaviors arising from the imaginal part of ourselves are archetypal in their sickness and thus natural (p. 4).”

    I started on the path because I needed healing. I continue on it because each day that I am able to remove a bit of the log from my eye I see the good news and how wonderful it is, and I want to remove the whole log from my eye so I can see it as it wholly and completely is. You, too, are removing the log from your eye and you realize or are beginning to realized that it is not about being a professionally trainined psychologist but about persisting in the truth. I love you in spirit, my sister. :-)

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 10, 2013


      I am thankful for your support of the work I am doing. I feel it, and I take it in with gratitude.

      I hear what you are saying: you started on the path for healing, and now you are on the path to gain clarity of vision. I would say that is true for myself also. I you are pointing to an important distinction is between healing and growth.

      I really appreciate your metaphor of log in the eyes as an example. Log (rheum) naturally discharges from the eyes. If someone were to say to me: “I have discharge coming from my eyes and I need healing.” I would want to honor that because an excess rheum may possibly indicate some pathology, i.e. dry eye, conjunctivitis, or other infections. But I would not be the one to do the healing of the eye; it’s simply not my role.

      But, if after seeking healing from the doctor they came to me and said “I have still have some discharge coming from my eyes every morning and now I wonder if the eye itself is pathological.” I might safely say that the eye itself is not pathological; for the eye is a natural part of the body. In a similar way the soul is probably not pathological in and of itself. Although some are making a claim that the soul (‘the breath of God’) is pathological. It may be only when we have done some previous healing that we are ready to know the soul in and of itself.

      • David R
        December 11, 2013


        I believe you may be saying in essence the same thing I said, just using different words. More specifically, though, rather than thinking of the log in my eye as a discharge possibly indicating a pathology in/of the eye, I was thinking of the log as a large obstruction (larger than a speck) in my eye that was blocking the clear vision of the eye. The point I was attempting to make is that until I/we remove the log from my/our eye I/we have no way of knowing whether the negative vision before my/our eye is a result of a pathology in the world or just a distortion to my/our vision caused by the log.

        We’ve discussed and you’ve posted your views on the union or marriage of opposites. These opposites are infinite in number and are a part of the archetypal pattern inherent in universe (as Bucky Fuller would have called it). With logs in place, we may (and often do) look out into the world and see something and label it as evil, not realizing that we are seeing only one aspect of a sacred marriage necessary to the fabric of our being.

        In my own case, I’ve found over time that as I am able to remove ever more parts of the log from my eye, many of the evils that I used to see fall away. I believe, too, this is at the heart of Hillman’s thesis.

        • Jenna Lilla
          December 11, 2013

          Beautifully stated David. That is a lovey and concise thesis. Thank you very much for offering your thoughts.

          As to what I said about the log in the eye, please know that in this case, and often, I am not speaking to you in particular but to the ideas in general. In this case, I was speaking to the clarity needed for self realization. I appreciate your metaphor of log in the eyes because when we speak of self realization we are speaking of clarity of awareness (vision). When we look within, we may realize that there is some log built up on the inner eye.

  6. David R
    December 11, 2013

    Jenna, I never thought you were suggesting I personally might have an inner I infection. I had used my eye metaphorically and knew you were taking up the metaphor. I like what you’re doing, and it is satisfying to me to feel as though I am helping to make it happen.:-)

  7. Rob Two-Hawks
    December 15, 2013

    As we approach the Solstice the veil is thinning as always.And,what a wonderful time that is for a deeper dive into Jung’s work! I’m just now reading this essay as I always fall through the cracks in the world at this incredible time.I enjoyed your outline of the Soul’s ”origin & history” and am very excited to hear that the Soul is your opus and guiding force in this endeavor.I had intuited that but here you confirmed.I was struck by your last small paragraph under ”Ego against soul” beginning with…”Every move toward power and control is a move away from a sense of self,of soul…” As my own existing ego continues it’s collapse within the dark night I daily experience the move from the old egoic power center towards the more numinous.Truly,the soul has it’s own amazing aims & desires as does the Self.The ”reclaiming of soul” has been my own opus for the last 20-plus years.The deeper one travels the greater the paradox,and so now,that opus shifts towards watching the Soul stretch to accommodate an ever transforming ego.With Jung’s deep interest in Soul and his development of the active imagination process I’ve always viewed him as a fellow shamanic psychonaut.I respect and enjoy your approach here and your desire to read Jung ”with an eye toward the ontology of the soul.” Thanks so much for taking the time & consideration to shape the approach to our journey of SoT in such a considered and soulful manner.

    • Jenna Lilla
      December 16, 2013

      It is beautiful to me Two Hawks, your ability to express within language the aims and desires of your soul. More and more it has become clear to me that the soul speaks a language of imagination, of poetry, of dreams. Though I never see your face, nor know the stories of your life, I sense your soul’s beautiful journey. And most of all I feel your soul’s relationality. You do not only read my words as objects of study, but you relate to my words, reaching out through words. This is the power of soul, a part of the ontology of soul. Thank you for exemplifying, to me, the soul.

      • Rob Two-Hawks
        December 17, 2013

        I can only imagine how you felt for months sitting quietly but somewhat frustrated within your blog before a Greater Wind caught the flame and other kindred souls sat around this campfire.And yet,you continued,fully committed to your passion.The Soul is your opus!Actually,I can imagine as I was in a similar place a decade ago but the Soul had other plans.When I read your posts and comments I see & experience the same beautiful capacity to transmit Jung as shared by certain other writers and Jungians-in-depth.Still,there is something else that draws me to this flame.You choose words and ponder themes and dreams and ideas with the same skill & precision that a master gardener employs to choose his seeds,select his tools and to tend the living earth.Your rational & directed mind’s abilities are obvious but it’s the sheer passion that guides your dreams,your imaginations and more here that adds the necessary uncommon ingredient.When I wrote in the past it erupted daily and for years with the force of a grand volcano.My intellect and deep experience were in the background but there was barely time to keep up with the creative speed and fury.I was like Rumi whirling and constantly emitting poetry upon the polished Dervish floor.Every night I would feel it turning & churning in my sleep(…but I couldn’t catch it with any awareness as within a dream.) And then,each day it erupted with it’s own life and used-me-up in the attempt to give it a good & total birthing.Now,as my ego crumbles and stumbles I have a crippled access to the rational mind but only minimal feedback from the intuitive.I’m patient as the old ego is re-shaping into a much better lens for the Self.Reading,let alone writing,is compromised and a nearly non-existent short term memory doesn’t exactly facilitate.And yet,I keep-on as a small act of faith and for some preservation of sanity.I’ll be fine I realize because it’s a crazy-wisdom kind of handicap and the Soul-is-the-unerring-guide.
        What I most want to say here Jenna is that inside this fractured & different state I must now take it very slow and savor every word.The form in which you are carefully writing and so respectfully sharing here is turning a temporary handicap into a gift & a grace.You are powerfully providing a potent mirror here of your own Soul and your passion for it’s trajectory.The creative fire inside of that has reflected within my own mirror(..and others)and appears to be generating the ”relationality-of-souls” that a well-tended fire uses to ”in-spire”.I see the same with every thoughtful comment that passes from you to another and back again.Keep-the-fire-burning Lilla.The power of Soul is reaching out beyond it’s ”apparent” circumference.You are coming-home again to the Soul’s Holy of Holies.Your own growth and metamorphosis is igniting many smiles.Welcome home!

        • Jenna Lilla
          December 18, 2013

          Two Hawks,
          I am warmed by the compassionate flame of your heart. Again and again, your soul shines through your words. Being passionate about writing, I am touched by you, as a soul who can transcend time and space to make contact through these wondrous things we call words. There is something so powerful in that capacity. I believe this is what Jung was talking about when he said “Language, in its origin and essence, is simply a system of signs or symbols that denote real occurrences or their echo in the human soul.” You make clear the occurrences of your soul through not only language, but also your capacity for relationality. Your words make contact with the truth of who I am.

          I too try to make contact with who you are, although we have never met. I hold you in my mind and wonder what is like for you as the ‘ego crumbles and stumbles.’ I try to imagine what it is like for a soul as bright as yours, to have ‘minimal feedback from the intuitive.’ I do this not with any will to help or change or advise. Instead I aim simply to know you through your words, to bear witness to the beautiful soul that is you.

          • Rob Two-Hawks
            December 18, 2013

            This is my first time on a blog so I’m not sure how it goes.I try to shorten comments but my condition and the requirements of Soul have their way.First,I want to assure you that I’m far beyond looking for external help or advice.I exhausted therapy many years ago and the ”Soul is my Captain”(…and now,it appears,the approaching Self).So yes,I try to honor the constraints of the blog and not get overly personal here.And yet,the genuine Dark Night is a creative rebirthing of unbelievable magnitude and it seeks some recognition while approaching the singularity of the black hole.Despite the injured access to memory and the right brain now,I can still convey what ego collapse is and feels like well enough.I’ve been taking notes inside the Soul for many years so that’s an old habit.I’ll offer some quick hints here and,who knows,maybe someday you’ll read the book.
            When the existing ego begins a total collapse it initiates with absolute physical,mental & emotional exhaustion.Evelyn Underhill recognized the same in her deep study of mystical process and the Dark Night.I should add that this collapse is not the collapse mentioned in cases of schizophrenia or psychosis.It’s a collapse that generates from many years of spiritual & psychological depth process.In my case that translated as about 20 years of committed shamanic exploration following a traditional shamanic soul retrieval.And yet,I was deep-searching for many years before that.So,as Underhill would say…the shaman,mystic,whoever enters collapse due to an exhaustion of the ”spiritual capacities”.St.John referred to this phase as the ”Dark Night of the Senses” because here it’s the spiritual & intuitive abilities that dry-up.(…”Father why have you abandoned me.”)
            Next there was a long difficult period where everything turned black(..even on the brightest summer day).It does so because as ego crumbles one’s Old World goes with it.All previous reference points evaporate one by one.There is no passion or energy for anything but survival and even that is at a minimum.It’s a long difficult period of inhabiting the inner(…and ”apparently” outer) wasteland.James Hollis described it beautifully when he wrote: …”Whenever one goes through the deconstruction of the false self,one normally suffers a considerable period of disorientation,of wandering in the wasteland.No career,no relationship,no direction or desire emerges,for one is absent-spirited,adrift,without vision of a renewed sense of self.” When Jung studied the alchemic Rosarium Philosophorum he equated this stage of individuation with the woodcut known as ”The Ascent of Soul” which appropriately depicts the small Soul body leaving the hermaphroditic body of the King-Queen.He viewed it as the ”Soul-less” stage in analysis when the patient had absolutely no sense of direction.He suggested that the 4 Functions had ”decomposed” leading to the dissociation & collapse of the existing ego.C.G.Jung was very right about this.
            Jenna,neither the idea nor the actual experience of shamanic ”death & dismemberment” are new to me.I’ve suffered many ego collapses or little deaths over many years.This time,however,is quite different because the collapse is ”total”.So much of what I can say there most would fear or walk away from.And they do…so there’s very little relational communication inside this abyss.In that sense then,without the context of a tribe or a monastery or a supportive community,this translates as the most intense experience of ”alienation” any human being can pass through within life.After all,what we really most fear about death is never just the pain of the end itself.What we fear at depth is the sense of losing all meaningful reference points to meaning,life,and others.The authentic shaman-mystic-psychonaut experiences a full death-within-life and that’s the actual or symbolic experience of a Job,a Jacob,a Jonah or a Rumi.One exists here inside the massive paradox of being dead and yet alive…of being on the Earth but not really belonging to it.As ego crumbles so do all meaningful reference points to it’s old ways and world.One lives inside vast empty spaces just going through the necessary motions of survival.In this state of exhaustion even that is a supreme challenge. One feels betrayed/abandoned in the extreme and the outer reality usually compliments that powerfully as this progresses.
            And yet slowly,ever so slowly,things begin to shift.That only happens after one has exhausted every single last option or defense of the existing ego.That is some ordeal,I promise,as ego is incredibly adept at generating distraction,boredom,rationalization,sabotage,anxiety-fear,and more.And when it senses it’s deeper collapse it will pull out any and all last-ditch efforts.All that one can really do throughout any of this is ENDURE.Endure and surrender to the incredible awareness that NOTHING BUT THE SELF OR THE HOLY MYSTERY can or will enter now to assist via GRACE.Jenna,this is why Rumi wrote…”Failure is the key to the Kingdom within.” He closed that incredible poem with the words: …”Your prayer should be ‘break the legs of what I want to happen.Humiliate my desire.Eat me like candy.It’s spring and finally I have no will.” Meanwhile,I endure the dark and the absence of the light of intuition and the Soul because I exist deep within the 2nd night…the ”Dark Night of the Spirit.” To endure that is to call in the grace of the Self with every longing and yearning power and instinct that the Soul still possesses.I endure because I have become a Balsamic moon that senses the approach of something vastly grander and more illuminating.And,I endure because the full and deep recognition of even just one other Soul Light as you die at this depth is enough to make you smile even inside hell.
            Sorry,but I could not go shorter here because the Soul can’t condense such experience into a superficial succinct form. As you know so well a symbol holds layers of meaning & power.I live now fully inside the symbolic and the archetypal.To offer some sense of ego collapsing-into-grandeur is,in truth,the work of many poems and countless Sufi dances.Jenna,I make contact with your true name and who you soulfully are because I’ve lived inside the Soul for most of my life.To know oneself at that depth is to know another.And yet,to have the courage to travel and boil with the chickpeas there is also to deeply respect each person and their boundaries and capacities.So,my Soul eye winks in recognition when another’s does the same.I’ll close by sharing this: *…Your capacity to see me and my Soul now arrived at the most synchronous time possible.As I drown in deeper layers ego almost caught me in a depression that kept me away from the shore lights of Christmas.Nothing has ever kept me from celebrating the deeper meaning & joy there…but this year a ”wink-of-recognition” from you brought me home again in time for the Holy Days.No kidding.Incomprehensible gratitude!!

            • Jenna Lilla
              December 18, 2013

              You continue to deeply touched my heart…
              Gratitude to you.
              Happy Holy Days.

            • Rob Two-Hawks
              December 19, 2013

              Thank you and also thanks for keeping-it-short.Appears the last one took all I had left for awhile,so yes,even I & my Soul can keep-it-short too.Resting today and wishing you and everyone here Happy Holy Days as well.Again,thanks for the smiles and recognition of Soul at a time when that was so needed!

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This blog is a personal meditation on Self-realization and enlightenment. I work with the writings of Carl Jung and analytic theory in a dynamic manner, reading texts with an eye for Self-realization. I read the sacred texts of Vedanta and Tantra with an analytical eye. I offer interpretations of texts that are my own. My textual interpretations are not orthodoxy. These writings are not peer reviewed. My use of texts is spiritual in nature, and should not be used in a definitive sense. If you are seeking a standard interpretation or advice please look elsewhere.

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